The Gothic Heroine’s Survival Guide

Have you suddenly realised that you’re in a Gothic novel? (Key signs to look out for: you’ve been kidnapped at midnight, you have moved to an echoing mansion full of secrets, your husband has this beady ‘loves to kill’ glint in his eye, a mysterious portrait dominates the ruined castle to which you’ve been removed, you keep finding dead bodies lying around…)

No spoilers, please': the crux of illustrating the explained ...

Don’t fear! The Gothic heroine’s survival guide is here. And it has an 80% guaranteed chance of survival. (Chances are significantly lower if your father or brother is the actual villain)

  1. As soon as you realise that you are, in fact, a Gothic heroine, proceed to change directly into a white nightgown. Make sure it is voluminous as this will enable you to trip down the stairs and out of danger at a pivotal moment. Make it as see-through as possible so the moonlight can glint off your bosoms for greatest aesthetic impact (this may help dazzle your pursuer’s eyes). White is the preferred colour as it is famously the best colour for camouflage.
  2. Find a servant to act as your boon companion. She will, ideally, be younger than you, given to wild speculation and willing to ignore the unreasonable nature of your demands. Her nervous chattering and superstitious idiocy will make you look calmer and more reasonable by comparison. If a servant is unavailable, attempt to locate a suitable child. Lonely, misunderstood children are by far the best companions when escaping from certain death as they really fit the mood of the journey better than your average child.
  3. Have you fainted yet? What are you playing at!? Get fainting. Noise? Faint. Door opens? Faint. See a shadow? Faint. Illicitly investigating and easily discoverable? The PERFECT moment to faint. Fainting enables you to escape the villain’s clutches because if you can’t see him, he can’t see you. Facts.
  4. Curiosity may have killed the cat but it will only result in your salvation. Make sure to enter and investigate any mysterious door or darkened corridor. For the best results, enter with a flickering candle which may go out at any moment. Look out for: bloody daggers, secrets to your parents’ death, tattered manuscripts, charnel vaults.
  5. If you cannot immediately escape or resolve the pertinent mystery via your explorations, seek one of our recommended hiding places. These include rooms at the tops of teetering doom towers, body-packed crypts, long abandoned priest-holes, cave systems, and robbers’ dens. Only one crisis can happen at once, so be sure to choose the lesser of two evils – bandits are statistically much less of a threat than your uncle.
  6. If you attempt to leave the house, castle or mansion, there are a number of approved ways. The most famous and most effective is to run into the night barefoot and completely unprovisioned. This will enable you to escape with the minimum of luggage and disturbance, while providing you with the perfect excuse to seek help from a rugged neighbour or chivalrous young man. You may also like to try: opening the gate and giving up in despair to lay on the grass for 6 hours; following a brutish gatekeeper through the castles’ hidden passages; fleeing through the catacombs to a monastery or similar; disappearing into a rain-soaked night; jumping out of the window (be careful here to check the floor you’re on).
  7. Take regular breaks to compose melancholy poetry.
  8. Be sure to admire the sublimity of each and every landscape through which you travel. Otherwise the narrator Gods may confuse you with a lesser mortal and abandon you to your fate.
  9. If you do manage to escape, you will wish to immediately purchase a hat for propriety’s sake. Remember, an improper heroine is a dead heroine.
  10. Key allies include: servants, nuns (although be careful here – watch out for a contiguous monastery – a bad sign), random anachronistically Protestant clergy, gentlemanly looking strangers, other soppy young women, druids and hermits.
  11. At this point, you are almost home safe. Remember to ensure your continued success by copious amounts of crying, a plucky determination to continue, and mournful gazing into the void. Be very sure not to do anything that could possibly be conceived of as useful. Any attempt to dress, feed or support yourself without the aid of handy servants or miraculous rescuers will inevitably result in your instant demise.

CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve survived. You may choose your prize from those below:

A wet napkin of a husband with whom you can spend the rest of your life in a virtuous rural retreat wallowing in the pleasures of smug virtue.

A tyrannical despot of a man apparently softened by his love for you but still very clearly attached to the old black-hearted supermale vibe.

A life of seclusion in a nunnery from the vicissitudes of the outside world.

Published by SamHirst

This started off as a story blog to share the little fictions that I like to write but it's turned into something a bit more Goth! I'm Dr Sam Hirst and I research the Gothic, theology and romance and at the moment I'm doing free Gothic classes online! We also have readalongs, watchalongs and reading groups. And I post fun little Gothic bits when I have the chance. Find me on twitter @RomGothSam

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